Rural Nurse Practitioner Workforce Issues: Rural RNs as Potential Untapped Resource


  • Molly Vaughan Prengaman, PhD, FNP-C Boise State University
  • Gayle Roux, PhD, NP-C, FAAN University of North Dakota



rural, rural nurse practitioner, workforce issues


Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine rural nurse practitioner (NP) workforce issues and explore practicing rural registered nurses (RNs) as a potential untapped resource to address the rural primary care provider shortage.

Sample: A purposeful and snowball sample of rural RNs, rural nurse practitioners, critical access hospital (CAH) administrators, and rural community residents from diverse geographical areas of Idaho, a rural, Western state, was utilized as the source of data.

Methods: Twenty qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted, recorded, and transcribed verbatim. Transcript content was then analyzed for major thematic identification.

Findings: Four major themes were identified through the data analysis process. “Need exists”, “Money matters”, “Relationships”, and “It’s just you” were the four major themes illustrated throughout the interview transcripts.

Conclusions: Knowledge achieved from this study may be utilized to enhance supports and address barriers cited by rural RNs when considering pursuit of advanced degrees. Likewise, those factors identified by nurse practitioners as positive and challenging aspects of rural practice may inform recruitment efforts. The information gained may be utilized to increase the number of rural RNs who consider becoming nurse practitioners as well as the number of nurse practitioners who choose to practice, or continue to practice, in a rural setting and thus improve rural access to care.

Keywords: rural, rural nurse practitioner, workforce issues, rural nursing practice, primary care provider shortage, rural RNs


Author Biographies

  • Molly Vaughan Prengaman, PhD, FNP-C, Boise State University

    Associate Professor, School of Nursing

  • Gayle Roux, PhD, NP-C, FAAN, University of North Dakota

    Professor of Nursing